It’s time to bring more light into the world. Indeed, this is one of the key themes from today’s lectionary selection in John 1:1-13 and Ephesians 1:3-14.
The Gospel according to John is a quite different account of Jesus’ life and ministry, and the opening verses are no exception. As with many biblical authors, we’re not sure who this John was that the text claims is the author. Tradition cites the author as one of Jesus’ apostles, the John who was a close friend and follower of Jesus. Regardless of the author, the insights we have from the text are worth exploring.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Much to do about . . . a word? Yes, but not just any word. The Word, which is translated from the ancient Greek term logos, referring to more than an ordinary character or word on a page. The Logos refers to Jesus as God’s message to the universe. Jesus as the Word—the Logos–is a high and mighty title, akin to saying that God created everything through the Messenger who is also the Light and Son of God.
Okay, so the abstract theology of Jesus’ Logos title is as broad as it is magnificent. When portrayed as the Word, Jesus represents the creative power of God, going beyond Jesus’ life and teachings and extending into the fabric of the universe. Kapow! Such teachings elevate Jesus as God and collapse distinctions between the man Jesus and God the Father. All this contributes to distinguishing—or not—between the historical Jesus and the Old Testament God.
John’s writing is cited as part of a larger narrative, an aspect of the Trinity, the classic formula of God in three aspects or persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Whatever controversies, contrivances and considerations surround the doctrine of the Trinity will not preoccupy us today. Suffice to say that John’s claims are part of a larger theological framework describing God’s mysterious nature.
But now what? Well, Paul the apostle wrote about some similar Word connections as we find in today’s reading from Ephesians. “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation . . .” (Ephesians 1:13a). There it is again, that mention of “the word.” We don’t know for sure if Paul had in mind the same Word theology as John, but we’ll go with it nonetheless. The gist is that Paul describes Jesus as the author of our salvation. For Paul, Jesus is God’s Son, and in this view we Christians have been spiritually adopted as God’s children. Here, Jesus is the Beloved, the one through whom we ordinary humans have inherited the promise of redemption. Well done, Paul.
We can sometimes feel as if we have a plate full of difficult to digest theological claims. Yet, what are we to do with them? We can at the very least feed off the comfort generated by the language placing us in God’s care. The nuances argued by biblical authors and modern-day scholars need not rob us of joy. We are in God’s care and we can claim a smorgasbord of divine blessings. And what a satisfying meal this can be! We can feast on the assurances that a great Power is at work, that some One(s) are watching over us. There is more than just a consuming void swallowing-up the universe in a vacuum of meaninglessness. God’s light and life emerge from Jesus’ teachings as well as from the life and writings of persons inspired by God’s Word.
Did you get some God-power today? Do you feel energized by the divine reassurances? I hope so. No, I take that back. I pray so. Do not permit discouragement and despair be the final words in your life. And don’t go-away confused, either. Deep theological language isn’t all that it’s cracked-up to be, for sure. Derive peace and satisfaction knowing that God is there, and here, and everywhere in-between. Encourage yourself with the conviction that God will help us do what is beyond or means to accomplish on our own. Rejoice brothers and sisters, and claim God’s redemptive power.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey